Anniversary Post: Slavery Abolition Act 1833

The Black Man's LamentOn this date the British Empire abolished slavery with the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. It was a long time in coming. In fact, slavery was illegal in Britain itself from 1772 onward. I’m mostly interested in it because of the effect of the abolitionist movement in Britain on the Revolutionary war.

I find it constantly amazing to look at the lies I was told growing up. I’m a good example of the “whistleblower mentality.” Studies show that whistleblowers tend to be the true believers who find that they’ve been lied to. Growing up, I believed all that garbage about the United States standing up for democracy and all the myths about people founding America for freedom and how we had to break with Britain because of a lack of representation. (That last one is a hoot!)

None of this is to say that there wasn’t a lot of noble idealism that built the United States. But there was a lot of vileness that built it too. I’m fine with that. I just don’t like to be lied to. And I think it makes the nation worse. It is what allows Chris Christie to run his television commercials claiming that the nuclear deal will give Iran nuclear weapons and to generally dehumanize other countries.

As Dylan Matthews wrote last month, the American slave population was not in favor of independence. They understood that they would be better off under British rule. He also quoted Simon Schama as saying that the Revolutionary War was “first and foremost, mobilized to protect slavery.” And the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 is a good symbol of that. It doesn’t mean that the Brits were great and we were horrible. But it does mean that slavery was far more important to our economy than it was to theirs. And so they stopped doing what everyone must have known was wrong.

4 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Slavery Abolition Act 1833

  1. When I hear the politicians talking about the creation of this great country, my blood pressure rises. What a crock. I too remember being taught U.S. History in school and told a pack of lies. When I went to college and learned the true history I was stunned. Why would they propagandize it? I guess to create good little obedient citizens. I would also recommend for reading Howard Zinn’s book “A People’s History of the United States”.

    • I like Zinn, but I have to admit that he tends to make America out to be even worse than it is. But it is a good corrective. And he was a great writer!

  2. the idea that the protection of slavery was an influence on the am. revolution should be brought to like is well appreciated. Yet, it is a myth that the revolution was “first and foremost, mobilized to protect slavery.” It is not an opinion or idealism that the break with Britain was mainly because of a lack of representation. It is plainly documented and no credible historian refutes it.

    And even if the preservation of slavery was as strong an influence as the author believes, what reason did the brits have to hold slaves when they could siphon millions of pounds from each country it colonized? there is no evidence of conspiracy that slave owners, instead of galvanizing a revolt based on preserving slavery, turned and created a canard of representation.

    True, there was a minority of slave owners within the colonies and within the authors of the DOI, but neither did they organize and execute the revolt that preceded the ratification of Independence.

    in addition the abolition act was finally ratified after over 100 yrs of illegal slavery: slavery still existed. It is not certain the brits would have ended it in the colonies any sooner.

    • Your main problem seems to be with Dylan Matthews, not me. So I’d head on over to Vox for more on that quote.

      As I wrote just yesterday, I think there was a good chance the English would have permitted slavery in America — as they did in India — to keep the cheap cotton flowing. However, India slavery only went on for about a decade more before the English stopped it, so I still think slavery would have ended in the US, in a far less blood way a couple of decades sooner.

      De facto slavery still exists in this country. And the country is quickly turning into a kind of neo-feudalism we euphemistically called “the gig economy.”

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